In order to gain a better understanding of consumer attitudes and experiences regarding tobacco usage in central Java, an in-depth interview was undertaken during the UTS Indonesia Global Studios. The interviewee’s response will be compared and contrasted against several findings among secondary sources. The interviewee, Mul, is a 26-year-old Indonesian, male, hotel butler, unmarried and a frequent smoker.
Tobacco usage in Indonesia is linked with old traditions as cigarettes are often introduced to adolescent boys during the traditional religious ritual of circumcision (Prabandari & Dewi, 2016). It is seen as an initiation or pathway to manhood and smoking supposedly relieves the pain. Likewise, Mul’s experiences coincide with this as he recollects the start of his smoking habit at around the age of 12-13 when his father gave him a pack. I was not able to ask further details if he practiced old traditions for modesty reasons.
“During religious festivals, wedding ceremonies, birth and grieving ceremonies… people come together and spend the night praying and sharing feelings. People will snack and drink tea or coffee and men will pass around cigarettes. In addition, cigarettes were often used as a ‘gift’ to friends, visitors, or guests in traditional or religious ceremonies. The informants shared the same social norms as the community as a whole; when you are offered a gift, it is impolite to refuse it.” (Prabandari & Dewi, 2016)
Smoking in Indonesia’s modern culture is also prevalent as Mul admits to consuming about 1 pack a day, more or less depending on how he feels. He smokes when on break and when he is socialising with friends. When asked why he chooses to smoke despite the knowledge of the health implications the response was because everyone else smokes. He would quit when it actually starts affecting him or will stop smoking if his girlfriend asks him to stop. He believes that smoking is cool and helps him attract women (he is still single). It is “brave to smoke” with the knowledge that it will do harm. The pressures of modern life play a role why one chooses to smoke; peer pressure, dating and the goal to achieve of masculinity.
Mul’s attitude towards smoking is assumed to be similar to others with the same demographic and satisfies findings from Morrow & Barraclough (2010) on gender and tobacco culture in Indonesia. Furthermore, Mul is situated in a highly collectivist society which views smoking as a gender norm; these conditions allow the tobacco industry to thrive (Schewe 2017). According to Hofstede’s cultural dimension of individualism, there’s a high preference from individuals in a collectivist country to conform to the ideals of the society and the groups which they belong with. The use of tobacco in the construction of masculinity highlights the need for more gender-specific interventions to undermine the wicked problem of tobacco in Indonesia.
Hofstede insights, 2019, Country Comparison-Australia & Indonesia, Hofstede Insights, viewed 20 December 2019, <https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/australia,indonesia/>.
Morrow, M. & Barraclough, S., 2010, ‘Gender equity and tobacco control: bringing masculinity into focus’, school of public health, vol. 17, no.1, pp. 21-28.
Prabandari, Y.S. & Dewi, A.,2016, ‘How do Indonesian youth perceive cigarette advertising? A cross-sectional study among Indonesian high school students’, Journal of global health action, vol. 9, no. 1.
Schewe, E., 2017, Why do so many Indonesian men smoke?, JSTOR Daily, viewed 20 December 2019, <https://daily.jstor.org/why-do-so-many-indonesian-men-smoke/>.